Introduction of The Japan Society for Cult Prevention and Recovery (JSCPR)
1 Over View
The Japan Society for Cult Prevention and Recovery (JSCPR) was founded in Nov.1995. It is a network consisting of Psychologists, members of the religious community, lawyers, psychiatrists, religious sociologists, counselors, ex-members of “controversial groups” and their families.
The JSCPR was originally called “Japan De-Cult Council” but adapted it’s present name in 25 April 2004, when ex-members and their families who were treated as “supporting members” were given full membership. As of 16 May 2008, the JSCPR has 167 private members and 10 private and corporate subscribers to our newsletter.
Among the clergy are protestant parsons, catholic priests, Buddhist monks from various sects, and some members of the new religion.
The office is located at my law office in Yamato-city, Kanagawa Prefecture, adjacent to Tokyo. We have no staff members or independent phone lines. The budget size is about 5 million yen (about $50,000-) in 2007, but excluding the attending fees for the general assembly and the balance brought forward from the year before the budget size is about 3 million yen (about $30,000-), Annual membership is 3000 yen (about $30.00-), and our other sources of income include sales of our publications, donations for delivering lectures, and donations. It is our policy not to receive high donations from specific persons or groups and we do not receive any public funding.
The purpose of the JSCPR is to exchange information and conduct research about the various problems concerning destructive cults, persons involved and their families, cult prevention and rehabilitation, and familiarize the knowledge to the common population, The JSCPR is not a counseling organizations, but as many people seek advice, I as an individual refer such persons to appropriate specialists or authorities.
All members must belong to one of the three committees, the research committee, the counselor’s committee and the family and concerned committee. The counselor’s committee membership is not limited to trained and certified mental health professionals, but also includes clergy and lawyers and other persons that offer counseling service. To apply for a membership, the applicant must be nominated by a member and a board member before being subject to membership review by the board of directors. There had been cases when applications were rejected.
There are 14 members on the board of directors, of which 7 are chosen by popular vote every 2 years, and the rest are chosen by the elected 7. The board elects a representative director and decides matters of operations by meetings and mailing list. From 1995 to 2003, Dr. Shingo Takahashi, a psychiatrist, from 2003 to 2005, Dr. Sadao Asami, a Harvard educated bible and theology scholar and professor emeritus at the Tohokugakuin University, and from 2005 to now, Taido Kusuyama, a priest of the Buddhist sect Nichiren-shu acted as the representative directors.
2 Why we came to be
The media coverage of the police investigation against the Aum Shinrikyo, exposed the abnormity of the guru Asahara, but also the bizarre or weird activities or conduct by his followers. The concept of “mind control” was used as an explanation in various parts. It surprised many people, when many of the followers who committed illegal acts after joining the Aum, came from background that would be considered elite.
There are certain groups that attempts to destabilize the mind of the target at the time of proselytization, making the target abandon it’s commonsense and replacing it with the absolute values of the organization, and is willing to give the world and commit crime for it’s purposes. I call such groups as “cults”. Even before Aum, there were incidents when members f certain groups beat their comrades to death with sticks, members committing mass suicide, and members refusing to bury or cremate their dead, believing in resurrection.
The organized reaction toward this problem began in the 1980’s when the lawyers stood up against the spiritual sales by the Unification Church (UC) and formed the National Network of Lawyers against Spiritual Sales. At about the same time, clergy and ex-members of the UC have started to offer exit counseling to UC believers. It is said that several thousand or more members have left the UC since then.
Against the Aum Shinrikyo, now deceased lawyer Tsutsumi Sakamoto organized the lawyers group against Aum Shinrikyo, and the parents of the members organized a parent’s group on the advice from the lawyers.
Since June of 1995, with the Aum Shinrikyo incident as the momentum, clergy, lawyers, counselors, psychiatrists, and religious sociologists gathered on their own, and began the exchange of information.
We came to be in the November of 1995.
3 Activities for Members
We have been holding one day general meeting from 1995 to 2003 and the numbers reach 40. From 1997, we have been holding a two day “lodge together meeting” with one day used for the general meeting. Currently we hold two day general meetings, twice a year, of which one is combined with the annual plenary assembly. In the March of 2008, the 14th general assembly combined with the plenary assembly was held at the foot of Mt.Fuji. Additionally, the family and concerned committee hold their own meetings about twice a year.
At the general meeting, lectures are delivered by members or invited specialists, and sessions are held to exchange information about controversial groups. Also individual session are held by the committees to suit their purposes. There is also ex-members only session.
Members are encouraged to join the mailing list, at which the exchange of information and opinion is held on a daily basis. Members also receive information via mail several times a year.
4 Social Activities
We try to publish Newsletters several times a year, but there are only 14 published so far. We have taken on topics such as “End of the Century and Cults”, “Cults or Religion?”, “Featuring Aum”, “Self-Enlightenment Seminar”, “Spirituality Boom” and “Mini Cults” etc. We publish about 1000 copies of each, and we distribute them to the National Police Agency, Ministry of Health and Labor, Ministry of Education and Science, Agency for Cultural Affairs and other related government agencies.
We have a homepage http://www.jscpr.org/ and some of it is in English.
We consider prevention to be the best counter measure against controversial groups and we distribute 30000 to 40000 copies of the pamphlet “Beware of such soliciting” (made in March 2003) to universities and other educational institutions for a small fee of 20 yen (20 cents) per copy, each year. We also distributed 3200 copies of the “Handbook on keeping yourself mentally healthy” (made in 1996) to mental health professionals, 1700 copies of the video “Beyond the illusion” (made in 1998), and 630 copies of the video “When your family member joins a cult” (made in 2003). We still need to work on distributing more.
Since 2000, we have been holding publically open symposiums and training courses every other year. We usually get about 200 to 300 participants each time.
Also, since 2000, the Board members have been meeting and exchanging information with officials of various government agencies, as well as making requests concerning policies or legislations about controversial groups engaging in illegal activies.
We have also made five official requests to the Ministry of Justice. In 18 Jan, 1996 and 30 Sep of the same year, we have officially requested that the Subversive Activities Prevention Law not be applied to Aum Shinrikyo, in 14 May, 1997 we have officially requested that special considerations be made to concerning visitation to incarcerated Aum ex-members, in 1 Feb, 2000 we we have officially requested that special policies and measures be enacted to support the ex-members of the Aum and we are also continuously petitioning the Ministry of Justice not to carry out the death sentences of the 12 Aum members excluding Asahara.
5 Activities of individual members
Individual members are working on the problems of cults from their own capacities. For example, member counselors provide their skills at schools, corporations and clinics, scholars at universities and academia, lawyers representing their clients in individual cases and lawyers groups, clergy at the religions they belong to, and families render assistance to other families and ex-members. Many members have web pages or blogs that handle the topic of cults.
Members have visited Aum defendants in prisons, and some have represented ex-members as their defense counsel. Other members have testified as expert witnesses, and had great influence on the outcome of the trials.
6 Friendly Groups
The National Network of Lawyers against Spiritual Sales started out to work on the problem of spiritual sales by the UC, but they also handle legal issues concerning other groups as well. Many of our members from the legal community are members of the Network as well, and there are other members that work closely with the network.
The NPO corporation “Inochi no Ie” (House of Life) is an stay type rehabilitation center for ex-members.
There are many other groups that work on problems of certain groups, such as UC, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Aum, Setsuri (Morning Star) etc., consisting of ex-members, clergy and counselors etc.
In Japan, the JSCPR, the National Network of Lawyers against Spiritual Sales and groups I mentioned above, have strong influence on the issue of cultic problems.
We always have several members attending the ICSA conferences, while on the other hand, refrained from attending conferences concerning cults, held by the Chinese Government, as freedom of religion is limited there, although members have attended as individuals.
7 Earmarking Results
There are at least two results, that can be said are earmarking.
This check list has 114 questions based on the basic human rights provisions in the Constitution of Japan, enabling it to make precise evaluation from the viewpoint of psychological manipulation, human rights violation and continuous violation of the law for the “greater good”, and not as an issue of heretical problem.
The results reveal that the rights violated, differs greatly from group to group, and the same can be said for the method of recruiting. It can be said that, greater the evaluation is between current and ex-members, “more cultic” the organization is.
On 22 Jan, 2000 we have made the “Agreement of those involved in the counseling concerning problems of destructive cults”, which is an agreement aimed at setting the minimum ethics, thus increasing and enhancing of counseling on ex-members, their families and exit counseling.